Life Of A First-Year Teacher

Jeffrey Otterbein

French teacher Sophia Lataille is not only new to Xavier but to the classroom. This is her first year as a teacher, so every step of the way is a first step. She has been learning just as her students have been learning. We are following her at various times throughout the year, giving readers a glimpse into the life of a first-year teacher. This is our third post.

Sophie Lataille is feeling more comfortable and confident as a first-year teacher, but she is not looking too far into the future. The here and now is challenging enough.

“Right now I am focusing on finishing the year. I know it’s the fourth quarter and I would love it if I was able to start making goals for next year/this summer, but I still need to devote all my energy into the present,” Lataille said. “There's so much to improve on a daily basis, that's my focus for the time being.”

Lataille continues to learn – about herself and her students. 

“In the beginning of the year I was more focused on the kids enjoying class and not pushing them too hard,” Lataille said. “Next year I will be able to push harder off the bat knowing my students more.”

Lataille is thankful for the “small moments with students and faculty; this school is about personal relationships and making a connection. I had heard over and over about enduring relationships, and I have seen it come together in my classes and in other student-teacher relationships.”

At the end of the year she will have time to reflect on her teaching and sets goals for next year.

“Just going through a school year and seeing the process will make me more prepared for next year,” Lataille said. “Now that I've taught all of my classes once, I know what to expect and have an idea of what I can improve. Again, it's not so much information learned that will help, but the time spent with students, content, and in front of the class that will most help me going forward.”

Lataille is still figuring out work/life balance but says she is getting better at it and has learned to use her time more wisely than when she started. During Christmas vacation she did get away from it all, traveling to Colombia to visit a friend.

“I originally met this friend in France when we were both teaching assistants, so I got to speak French the whole time. I also learned some Spanish which was fun,” she said. “Colombia is an absolutely beautiful country with incredible things to see. I was so thankful to have a friend with me from the area so that I could more fully enjoy the experience.”

Experience. That’s what Lataille gains each passing day. She is the type of person who likes to be super organized, but she also knows the reality of the world. 

“Be prepared,” she said of advice she’d give a first-year teacher, “but be willing to be flexible and be ready to roll with whatever goes on.”

The year is flying by. Before you know it, the phrase "first-year teacher" will be erased. 

 

 

 

Jeffrey Otterbein

 

Sophie Lataille may be in her first year teaching but things move quickly at a high school. Here we are with midterms over and Christmas break starting. Almost time to bid 2018 goodbye.

We checked in with Lataille in early November, just after the first marking period ended, and then again this week as midterm exams were being given.

 “The first marking period [which ended Oct. 26) went well, but it was hectic and insanely busy,” Lataille said in early November. “I feel much more prepared. During quarter one I was trying to get my bearings and keep up with everything, whereas now I feel like I have a better handle on things (time management and planning).

She did learn a few things about herself at that point, about two months into the school year. 

“I think I started the year off too ‘nice.’ I should have been a bit more strict to start off with, and I knew that going in, but it just isn't who I am,” Lataille said. “I definitely reaffirmed that I am someone who needs to be extremely organized and ahead to feel good about my work, so that's exactly what I tried (and still try) to do.”

Preparing for midterms might not be easy for the students, but neither is it for a first-year teacher. Will the test be too tough, too easy?

“It took me a long time to prep for midterms,” Lataille said last week. “Creating exams took me quite a few hours, then there is creating the study guides, rubrics, and checking everything twice. I think it took me so long to create the exams because I was so worried about them being fair, but still challenging. I had colleagues look things over, I triple-checked things, and so on to ensure they are fair … but I guess we won't know until the students take them!”

Now, about four months into the academic year, she says there is no singular moment that stands out, “but I think a lot about how much I've gotten to know my students and the fun we have in class. So far I am most proud of my students’ growth. I've seen a lot of improvement in a lot of students, which makes me extremely happy.”

A goal for the second half of the year will be to keep “myself and the students motivated … keep them going until the end of the year because I haven’t experienced that yet.”

She says she will try to craft some fun activities to keep the students engaged. Another goal will be to convince some juniors to stick with French next year. A language is required for three years, but she’d love to see some take Advanced Placement French as a senior. 

Friday started the Christmas break for the kids and they won’t be back in school until Monday, Jan. 7. Lataille will spend part of the holidays at her parents’ house in Maine and then is headed overseas.

“My sister is flying in from California and my brothers will be there as well. We'll spend Christmas at home all together as a family, which will be lovely,” she said. “After Christmas I am going to Columbia for a week to visit some friends I met in France. My friend, Paola, is from Bogota, so we will be spending time with her and her family.

“Traveling abroad will definitely help me to unwind and sort of ‘reset’ for the rest of the school year. I also only speak French with my friends who I am traveling with, which will be a nice change of pace.”

Et finalment, Vœux de bonheur pour un Joyeux Noël! (And finally, happy wishes for a Merry Christmas!).

 

 

 

Jeffrey Otterbein

‚ÄčLataille, 25, might be new to teaching but not to the language. Xavier is fortunate to have her as a French teacher as she comes in with a deep background.

She grew up in Hampden, Maine, and went to the public high school there, Hampden Academy.

Lataille took French in middle school and high school, and was inspired to stick with it because of her French heritage.

“Both sides of my family come from Québec and I grew up hearing my grandparents speaking French,” Lataille  said.   “I was always inspired by people who could speak multiple languages so I decided I wanted to learn.”

She takes the charge seriously.

“I made the decision to become an Au Pair in Paris after high school in order to improve my French fluency,” Lataille  said. “It was an incredible experiencing working in Paris, but definitely a challenge moving straight out of my parents’ house into a foreign country.”

After living in Paris, she went to the University of Maine, graduating from the Honors college with majors in French and Secondary Education. She wrote an undergraduate thesis about English Language Learners, which ties in with her certification to teach ESL (English as a Second Language).

Lataille  worked through college and was an RA (resident adviser).

She always wanted to be a teacher. “I am passionate about learning and want to instill that passion in my students,” Lataille  said.

THE LEARNING CURVE

Everything is new. What’s the best route to avoid traffic on the way in from West Hartford … what time is best to get here so she’s ready when the kids arrive and that 8:15 bell sounds … how to stay ahead on lesson plans … getting to know the names of the faculty and staff … learning what works best in the classroom.

Oh, and even where to park when she proctored the freshmen dance. Lataille parked in the front; she should have parked in the back.

She tries to get here around 7 a.m., which gives her time before the students are in the building. She leaves between 4 and 5 p.m. On Sundays she has been spending a lot of time on the following week’s lesson plan, which reduces weekend relaxation. So she’s trying to more lesson planning during the week.

“I’m slowly working on this,” Lataille said. “I hope it improves once I get a system down.”

Already she is feeling more comfortable.

When she walked into the building on the first day of school there were a few emotions.

Nervous and excited were two, she said. “A mixture of both but mostly excited about starting my teaching career. I knew the first year would be a challenge.”

When not on the job, she likes to read, hike, snowboard and do art. She took a pottery class before school began. Right now there is not much time for any of that. But that will change down the road. Maybe when winter comes, she'll find time on the weekend to hit the slopes.

For now , "il n y a pas passez de temps dans une journée."  Not enough time in a day.